Ask the Labor Lawyer #6 - Attracting and Retaining Quality Employees
Question: I own a small manufacturing business. The work is repetitive and also requires attention to detail. Especially with all the COVID relief money floating around, I am having a hard time finding employees with a good work ethic. Any advice?
Response: Have you considered recruiting through RedBalloon?
At first glance, motivating your employees seems more like a business issue than a legal issue. But as a labor lawyer, I am always concerned about employee morale. Happy, productive employees don’t complain and file lawsuits. Expensive litigation can often be traced back to a disgruntled employee who contacted an attorney. It’s not hard to manufacture a legal issue after the fact.
So here are my thoughts:
Pay the highest wages you can reasonably afford. This will give you immediate leverage over your competitors for labor.
- Be selective.
A bad employee will cost more than waiting for a good one. You are never so desperate that the wrong hire can’t make things worse. Conduct a thorough interview, request references, and call them. Look at the applicant’s public social media. If you do criminal background checks, use a reputable agency that can help you with the required disclosures. But your personal involvement is the best tool for selecting good employees.
- Provide honest feedback.
Annual performance evaluations come with pitfalls. Some managers engage in “grade inflation” and avoid hard conversations. Others save up negative feedback throughout the year, catching the employee by surprise. A much better approach is to give feedback on a regular basis, as issues arise. This way, the employee has a fair opportunity to improve, and you have a fair opportunity to see whether he improves.
- Working environment.
Create a pleasant workplace. Ask employees for their suggestions on how to improve. In particular, check your own attitude – are you kind and encouraging to your employees? If you find yourself raising your voice at work, it is possible you are the problem, not Biden’s stimulus money.
- Don’t be afraid to fire.
If you have given an employee honest, documented feedback, and the employee has failed to improve over a reasonable time period, fire him. Some terminations may be legally tricky (for example, if the employee has just made a protected complaint or asked for an accommodation). Nonetheless, many employers are too cautious about termination. Talk to an attorney if you need to, and then sever the relationship – politely. Getting rid of bad employees will help the morale of your good ones.
May the employees who want to work, want to work for you,
Laura, The Labor Lawyer
Please note that this post does not constitute legal advice on your specific situation, and you do not have an attorney-client relationship with Laura. If you have questions for Laura, please send to firstname.lastname@example.org. Such questions may be used for general edification in this column.